Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Dear David...{She Won't Be Perfect: Letter 15}


Dear David...

On and off I've been thinking about how much I need to start praying for your future. Not only what job you'll have and who you'll become as a man...but who you will marry, if you do marry at all. It is my duty as a God-fearing mother to intercede spiritually for you both, now and then. It sounds so crazy saying this. You are going to be two years old this Sunday and we are going through the potty training adventures at this moment. Your only concern today was eating another bite of brownie and rolling toy cars down the hallway without wetting your pants.

Prayer is powerful. I've told you that before in this letter. I will do all that I can to encourage you to pray for your future spouse and when you are married, continue to pray for her and with her. Why? Well, she won't be perfect. She will have experiences that will shape her thoughts and dreams. They may not go along with your beliefs. She will have made mistakes. She will be over-emotional and over-critical at times. She might become needy and lonely. She won't always say the right things and will some times argue points that are untrue. She will be fully human; full of potential on a path that hopefully is guided by her Maker.

She won't be perfect, David. And neither will you. It is easy to envision the one we truly love as a perfect vessel, in the beginning. We almost idolize and worship one another. However, the only perfect One is the Lord Jesus Christ and as you both seek Him first, you both will be perfected.

So even when you see a glimmer of the imperfect nature inside of her, remember your vows. Even when you don't understand why she is upset or crying, hold her. Even when you feel your world is being shattered, don't forget who is part of it. She won't be perfect but you are still called to love her with all you have. And love is an action word. Look to Jesus for that demonstration of what perfect love is so when she disappoints you (because we do that as humans) you can see past her imperfections and will encourage the potential she has inside.

Above all else, remember that we all are clay in the hands of the Potter. It pains me to think that I'm probably making a mistake raising you right now. I'm constantly praying that as a parent I'm doing the right thing and as a Christian woman I'm producing the right example for you. But one thing I do know is no matter how long of a list you have of what you seek in a woman of God, she won't be perfect. But love her anyway.

Love, Mom

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Etsy or Storenvy?


I want to start this post by saying this is not a platform bashing party. There have been many things flying through my mind about both Etsy and Storenvy. I've had many shop owners ask me my thoughts and so here they are. The purpose of this post is to layout the pros and cons of each based on my personal experience.

Have you been thinking about opening an online store? Have you been wondering which platform is best for your business or products? Or have you been selling online for a while but are itching to try something different?

I'm there with ya. It's confusing when choosing a platform for your business because in the beginning it ALL sounds great. The real truth won't be revealed until you actually dive in and try something out. There is nothing I can say that beats your own experience. However, here are my two cents anyway since this is my blog and I can do whatever I want (ha!)

ETSY

Known for it's trendsetting ways, many creative folks flock to Etsy from all around the world. I started dabbling in the Etsy ocean in 2010 and there have been many changes (good and bad) to the platform since then. Many shop owners find huge success while others are lost under the current. Here are some pros and cons based on my 4 years selling on Etsy:

Pros:
  • Community. Etsy has always been known for it's diverse community of like-minded crafters. Oh you like antlers and anchors? Me too! Wow I love your hoop art, I'll add it to my next Treasury! You are guaranteed to connect with someone else who loves what you love. With the benefits of Etsy Teams and Forums, you can not only share your products but also find that one-of-a-kind (or OOAK for you Etsians) doily scarf for your Aunt Lucy.   
  • Exposure. With the power of community comes the added exposure your shop can receive. Not only from people browsing the marketplace but Etsy is now a household name and has been featured in some of the top Home Decor/ DIY magazine as well as popular television shows.
  • It works. Sure it takes a lot of hard work and time but the bottom line is if you follow the Etsy formula, it works. Though every shop is different and may not thrive the same, Etsy does give every shop owner enough tools to turn their dreams into reality. The less time you devote to your shop, the less likely you'll see an increase in sales and vise versa.

Cons:
  • Fees. Obviously we know we have to spend money to make money but the amount of fees included with running a shop can sometimes be daunting. Yes, it is only .20 cents to list an item but if you list enough times during one day to stay on top of the product pages, it can get expensive. Not to mention the nice percentage Etsy takes from each sale. Learn more about their fees here.
  • Trend driven. While this may seem like a pro to some, I list being trend driven a con because trends fade over time. If you want sales, look at what people are adding to their treasuries and you'll be sure to see a pattern. Antlers. Anchors. Mustaches. Chevron. Hoop art. Your unique products can find their own place but it might be hard to find a spot at the cool table.
  • Not shopper friendly. When I looked for a different platform to sell from, it was because I actually had customers tell me they were confused with how to buy! Okay, if you are already on Etsy and have an account, it's easy. But what about the average customer who browses Google and finds your amazing product? I love selling to other sellers but being really successful is making sure everyone else can get your product in their hands.
STORENVY

Like many small businesses, we often feel like the under dog in a corporate run world. Storenvy gives handmade shop owners more freedom to create a storefront and brand they not only love but are proud of. While this platform is still fairly new, it's popularity is growing due to their humble beginnings and desire to give small businesses a voice.

Pros:
  • No fees. Seriously. No catch. You can upload up to 500 products at no cost to you. Storenvy gives you the option of adding a custom domain url as well to your shop for only $5 a month but if you don't want to spend that, you don't have to. You can just use the url they provide when you sign up. There are also other add-on options such as super discounts for customers (besides coupon codes) that also have a fee but again, don't use them if you don't want to. For more information, read more here.
  • Customizable. Running an online shop is not only about the products but about a first impression. While Etsy has a lot more shop keeper tools, Storenvy allows full customization for your storefront. You can choose to alter one of their templates, purchase/download a custom template from a designer or if your HTML savvy, have at the code. So many possibilities for creating a shop that speaks about your brand. I actually purchased a premade template from Dana +Wonder Forest  in her Envye design shop. Take a look right here.
  • Simplicity. Yup. This platform is so simple and easy to use, as well as shop from. It took me a few months to get one sale on Etsy but with Storenvy it was only a matter of weeks. The tools available are great plus the 3rd party integration features is not as confusing as some may think.

Cons:
  • Still new. One thing about being part of a newish platform is that community is being established and exposure is on it's way. You do have to work a bit harder at sharing your products/shop. Also, people may be a little apprehensive about shopping with a platform they haven't heard of.
  • No forums. While Storenvy allows you to watch stores, create product collections and envy (instead of heart) items, I do miss forums. On Etsy, I have to rely on forums to bring internal traffic to my shop. Sharing my product link within Teams helps bring exposure to my shop. Getting used to not having a place within the platform to chat with other shop keepers is a bit of a challenge, although they do have a great Facebook group.
  • Kinda techy. Even if you want a basic storefront, in order to be a success, you have to be somewhat techy or be friends with someone who is. Customization is definitely a pro but how to get there might be a turn off. The basics provided are great but you will soon realize it may not be enough. You'll start to want to branch out ideas and grow your brand. Brush up on your HTML skills and get simple coding down. You will need it eventually. 

Honestly, I have both right now. One of the best things you can do as an online business owner is keep all avenues open. The more opportunity you give people to see your products and experience your brand, the better. While I can't afford Etsy fees all of the time, the money is well spent as my items get exposure and I can be a part of a larger community. And while Storenvy is still new, it still provides me full control over my brand, how to create my storefront and is easier for my customers to purchase from.

I've been using the Storenvy platform more now because of the amount of traffic it's getting. The shop is well linked to my social media platforms and this blog. My product sales have doubled since switching the majority of my inventory to Storenvy. However, I have made sales in the last couple of months on Etsy so I keep it open and list items that would appeal to that audience. 

We should never throw these two in a ring and say "fight." The handmade community as a whole can benefit by coming together and bringing forth good quality products made from the heart. I truly believe both platforms stand for the same things and I fully support them. So think about your shop and what you'd like to accomplish. Write down your goals and a financial plan. Take a look at what is beneficial all around for your brand and choose that way. In the end, handmade still wins!

Check out my shops and tell me your thoughts in the comments.

Friday, February 28, 2014

Be His Constant.



Coming in from the cool night, she paused. Her ears were listening for the sound she desperately loved to hear. As she made her way to the stairs, it dawned on her. He was sleeping. Pounding the steps, she rushed to the door and as I let our precious puppy in, immediately she hopped on the bed. Curling herself in a tight ball behind his legs, as she always did at night, a phrase flooded my mind: she was his constant. 

Marriage can sometimes be a rocky road. Too often we find ourselves bickering and nagging over the slightest things. Many years from now when the dust has long been settled, we hopefully will realize how unimportant it was to be right. Last night I painted our living room by myself. Not because I wanted bragging rights (did I mention it was 300 square feet? just saying). I did it because I wanted to surprise my husband when he came home from work. Little did I realize the magnitude of the job, thus, I worked until the wee hours of the night finishing it up.Wasn't much of a surprise, at least, not what I had envisioned. However he was beyond grateful and I could tell he truly was touched.

We are in the process of sprucing up our condo to sell. Our goal and dream is to own a house for our family, so I've been putting many hours into our place to prepare for our blessing. This year marks 5 years since we said our vows and since then have been through a lot together. Did you catch that? Together? There have been very trying times when our heads could barely withstand the beating waves of the current storm.

We each made selfish mistakes. Though it may be hard to forgive ourselves, it's so important to let our spouses know we've forgiven them. That we will stand by them even through the murky waters. That we are more than best friends but are soldiers in love, fighting a tough yet beautiful battle, side by side. That they can trust us. Depend on us. That they know we can be their constant.

One definition of constant is this:
a situation or state of affairs that does not change.

This is where many marriages fail. We fail one another because we change our love based on circumstances and trials. We fail to be consistent in our vows. We lack accountability for our words and actions. The same way that God's love for us is constant and unchanging, our love for our husbands need to be this as well. 

We live in a world today that embraces change like a new outfit. While change is good, when it comes to true love in marriage, it's important to honor it the way God intended it. Constant. 

Constant in forgiveness.
Constant in open embrace.
Constant communication.
Constant understanding.
Constant commitment.
Constant loyalty.
Constant honesty.
Are you getting this?

These things should never change. If they do, they should be getting better and stronger! I want my husband to feel secure in our marriage. I want him to know that no matter what choices he makes, I'm not going anywhere unless God tells me to. He can rely on me to be next to him even when he falls. I want him to know that we are a team.

He can trust me with his heart, that I won't manipulate it to get what I want.
He can be honest and open because I'm honest and open.
He can share with me his inner fears because I too am flawed and scared.
He can know that when he comes home at night, I'll be eagerly waiting with a tight hug, as if to say "It's okay. The troubles of the day are gone. You are home."

I use the illustration in the beginning because that is exactly what happened last night when this thought occurred to me. Our Siberian husky Jackie is truly in love with him. Even when he gets firm with her or disciplines her, it never fails: she hops up on the bed and finds that spot where she can curl up next to his legs. It doesn't matter what he does or says. She has made up her mind that he is her love and nothing will stop her from being with him.

How much more loyal should a wife be? Don't misunderstand what I'm saying. We are not dogs and shouldn't be in the eyes of our men. Nor are we slaves jumping at every command or call. The bottom line I'm trying to make is, my husband has no doubts about Jackie's love because it's constant. Never changing. Never wavering. It is settled and genuine. Our love must be that and more!



Friday, February 21, 2014

New Graphic Tee Design Reveal!




Have I got some exciting news...I learned how to screen print! Well just started learning but I was surprised how quickly I picked it up. Months of preparation and studying sure paid off. It was intimidating at first, not gonna lie. Then one moment it all clicked and I was able to create the first screen to be used in my shop's graphic t-shirt line "Hello Awesome Tees"!

An order of plain white tees are on their way and hopefully a launch date for this design will be set this week. It is such a passion of mine to bring Christ-centered designs to people who need encouragement and inspiration. We are all struggling and God sees every heart. Please pray with me, that this new venture will be more like a ministry, not just a business. That people will be touched and healed by these designs.We could all use more love, grace and mercy. I'm hopeful hearts will turn to Christ through these tees.

What is your favorite Bible verse that could be a great T-shirt design? Be sure to check out my shop Hello Awesome by clicking here or visiting http://www.helloawesomeshop.com

Linking up with these awesome blogs!
Tatertots and Jello
Six Sisters Stuff 

Monday, February 17, 2014

Home Tour: Before

If any of you have been following me on Instagram, you're probably sick of all the painting photos. My husband and I have been hard at work lately prepping our condo to sell. We've been praying for a house the last few years and both feel the Lord is preparing us for that blessing. We love our condo. It has served us well for five years and was the perfect cozy home to start our life together. However, the needs of our family have changed. We have a very high energy Husky who desperately needs a yard, not to mention a running toddler who would totally enjoy it as well. I'd love to start growing our own vegetables and plant a flower garden. We all could use some personal space away from sharing walls with strangers. To top it all off, we are having baby fever and can't see ourselves bringing another addition into an already overwhelming place.

While we understand there is a lot of responsibility when owning an actual house verses a condo, it is what is best for our needs. We've been taking on some projects here and there to clean up, declutter, freshen up, decorate the condo. Now though, the ball has really been rolling and I just knew I had to include you on our crazy journey!

Dining Area
Living room 1
Living Room 2
Kitchen
Downstairs half bath
Guest full bath
Master full bathroom
David's bedroom / second bedroom
Our bedroom / master bedroom
Tada, here's the before! These photos were taken a few months ago so we've made some changes already. I decluttered SO much stuff, it should be a crime. But I'm glad it's not because there is more to get rid of and donate. We've already freshened up the paint in the downstairs half bath (what do you think of the scalloped effect?), the master bath and bedroom. David's room has been rearranged but it's the only room we won't be touching since we converted my old studio into a nursery.

Once we finish more projects and I really finalized the decorating/staging, I'll try and dedicate one post per room. That way I can break down the before and after differences, what we did and you can let me know what you think. I'm so excited!! Home projects are simply the best and I cannot wait to see it all come together! Eventually I'd love to share DIY tutorials as both of us love being creative and I know you do to ;)

So tell me: have you been through the buying and selling process? any tips for selling a home? any tips for buying a first house? what would you do to our condo to sell it?

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Dear David...{20 Things I Don't Want To Forget: Letter 14}



Dear David...

These moments that I have with you have been the best times of my life. In the beginning, I thought being a mother was more about what I'd be teaching you...but here I am realizing I'm nothing but a student in the hands of the Lord, as He uses you to show me precious things. And though I know teaching and training you to be a man of God is one of the biggest callings a woman can have, it keeps me humble when I realize we both are learning new things together.

This world will make you feel busy. This world will have you filling up daily planners, scheduling events and looking forward to the months ahead. Sometimes it's hard to focus on now. These moments. This list is to remind myself of the things I never want to forget as your mother, within these sacred minutes. You'll be potty training soon, moving to a bed and growing up before our eyes. I want to stop being busy and start remembering...

I don't want to forget:
  1. How you look at me like I'm a hero. 
  2. The laugh you have that lights up a room
  3. Your innocent curiousity
  4. The silly jokes we share and how you love that I "get" you
  5. How much my heart aches when I think of this world & the pain it might cause you
  6. The way you wiggle your piggies
  7. The way you pause whatever you are doing to listen to an airplane
  8. How excited you get when daddy arrives home
  9. The look of delight when you have a balloon
  10. Your sleepy eyes peering over the crib
  11. The way you rub your ear when you're tired
  12. How much you love to dance
  13. The way you spin so silly
  14. Your soft beautiful curly hair
  15. How you hold me when you think I'm leaving...
  16. The way your head fits perfectly on my shoulder
  17. Your squeals during bath time (one of your favorite things to do!)
  18. The need you have to explore and be independent
  19. How afraid I feel because you deserve the best...and more...
  20. The bond we share as a family
It's these special nuggets that mean more than any dollar amount, any job, any house, any materialistic object.  I want to take time every day to soak in our relationship because some day it will change. Maybe I'll make a joke and you might not laugh anymore. Our silly jigs will be babyish. You might spike those lovely curls with hair gel. The sweet Bible songs might turn into rock songs. There will come a time that you will make your own choices...and reap that choice, whether good or bad.

It's easy to live in a dream world, staying busy and thinking this is how life will be forever. Though I wish I could pause this time right now and bottle it up so you never have to experience hardships or trials, I must believe that my God is your God and what He has done can happen again...but for you.

Tears are flowing right now because I feel powerless. Mama will not always be there to protect or guide you but we serve an omnipresent, omnipotent Lord and Saviour who is always with you! Thank you for teaching me to live for now. I don't want to be a distracted mom, with my eyes more on my phone and Facebook than your precious face! So I will continue this list in my journal and documenting facial expressions, likes, dislikes, emotions, events, quirks...

One thing I don't ever want you to forget, David, is how much I really love you. Even if you grow up and think I don't...what I have written, I have written. I would move mountains just so the sun was out of your eyes. I would build a bridge to a rainbow if you wanted to touch it. There is nothing I wouldn't do for my son. Remember that.

Love,
Mom


Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Gooey-Love Brownie Pie {Recipe}


I love how the majority of my recipe posts start with me explaining how what I made was an accident. Isn't that what cooking/baking is? Just a bunch of happy little accidents in the kitchen and then someone's like "Hey, that actually taste good!" So they stick a fancy name on it, write down what they did and boom. History was made.


The thing about this brownie pie is there is nothing accidental about the love between chocolate and peanut butter. That was a match made in Heaven by the hand of God Himself. With so many desserts out there marrying these two crazy delicious kids, I had to do something to change things up.

The base is a yummy fluffy homemade brownie. That's right, no box mix here! Making your own brownie mix isn't that difficult and it tastes better than any store brand. I'm so glad I came across Sheryl's recipe on her blog, Lady Behind the Curtain. As always, I changed up the recipe a bit to make it my own but used hers as the perfect starting point. Then layered on top is a gooey-creamy peanut butter mixture with a secret ingredient. But it won't be a secret any longer. Just keep reading.

What you'll need:
  • 1/2 cup of butter
  • 2 ounces baking cocoa
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 eggs, slightly beaten 
  • 1 cup peanut butter
  • 1 can/14 ounces sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 cup milk or semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • Fruit, sprinkles, candy, any topping you'd like!
Preheat oven to 350 degrees and spray a round 9x1.4 inch pan. In a medium saucepan, melt the butter, cocoa and sugar on low for about 2-3 minutes or until the sugar has completely dissolved. Remove from heat and stir in the flour until smooth. Add eggs and beat until smooth. Spread evenly in pan and bake for about 15 minutes or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean. Let sit for 1 minute in pan then move to a baking rack to cool completely.

For the topping, melt the peanut butter in a microwave-safe bowl for 30 seconds. Combine with condensed milk and stir. Spread graciously on top of the brownie pie and garnish with your favorite toppings. This peanut butter mixture makes a lot, I used about half for the brownie pie but the rest can be used on ice cream, cookies or cake.


What a perfect after dinner treat! My husband's sweet tooth was acting up and he requested something with peanut butter and chocolate. Usually we make Puppy Chow but I wanted to do something different yet still quick and tasty. I was actually surprised how fast I made this and how good it was! Whenever I try a new recipe, it usually takes a while of me sorting everything out and wrapping my brain around what to do. This Gooey-Love Brownie Pie will definitely be on the list of my go-to easy desserts.

Are you planning on making anything yummy for your honey for Valentine's Day?
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